WEEK 17 POST-GAME TRANSCRIPT
HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH
Opening Statement: "Credit to the Bengals. They are a tough, young football team. They made the playoffs, so congratulations to them. They're a team that doesn't quit, and this is the best division in football because of teams like the Bengals, the Browns and obviously the Steelers. It's a great accomplishment to win this particular division. I don't know how you could do it any better than winning it here against that football team with the effort they put in, and the crowd was incredible. On behalf of our team, we're grateful for the opportunity to play in a game like this."
How rewarding is it when momentum is changing, the crowd is getting into it, Terrell Suggs makes a big play and your offense is able to capitalize?: "We needed a play. In games like this you need your best guys to come up with a play in critical moments like that. "
Was that 70-yard touchdown a drawn up play?: "No, I think our assistant coaches did a great job. Obviously the players execute and get it done, but I thought our coaches did a nice job with the game plan. We did some unique things, with Anquan (Boldin) being out, that helped us passing and running. Wade Harman came up with that scheme during the week and it was there at the right time."
Can you talk about the importance of the running game: "Well, December and January football in the AFC North, you have to be able to run the ball, and you have to be able to complete passes. We've got a big, strong armed quarterback that completed some passes in tough situations. We ran the ball well, so it's really important and hopefully we're built to do that."
Can you have everybody healthy in the next playoff game?: "Yeah, we have a much better chance now. Towards the end of the game we were down six or seven players with various things. It doesn't look like anything serious, but we had three or four concussions, an MCL sprain and a couple other things. We were scrambling, but now we have two weeks and an opportunity to get healthy."
Can you put into perspective how it feels to win the division, have the week off and play at home?: "I wish I could, but like we told the team last night, we all understand what this game meant to us. Our football team really wanted to win this game, and we needed to win. For our team to sweep the division, to go undefeated at home … I'm so proud of those guys."
What did it mean to have Marshal Yanda out there?: "It was a huge boost. He didn't decide until today. We thought there was a chance he would play, but wasn't totally sure. There's not a tougher player I've been around in 27 years of coaching."
After getting that turnover how big was it to score quickly in the fourth quarter?: "That was the difference. Sometimes with the running game you have to keep at it and stay true to your tracks."
QB JOE FLACCO
What does today's win mean?: "It means a lot. It gives us that bye, a chance to get a little bit healthy, and a game in front of our fans."
What was the atmosphere like in the locker room after the game?: "It was obviously pretty exciting. We haven't won the division since I've been here. Especially, in the way we did it. To go undefeated in a division that has three playoff teams is a pretty big accomplishment."
How big was it for the Ravens to get the quick score on Ray Rice's 51-yard run to make it a 24-13 game with 5:41 remaining?: "It was really big. It was a game that, at halftime should have come out and put them away. That's what it feels like. At the end, we were really trying to hang on. Obviously, that turnover (fumble by Jermaine Gresham, recovered by Terrell Suggs) was a big part of the game. For us to score the touchdown was huge."
Talk about the performance of your offensive line: "Those guys are in there battling. They are the guys doing all of the dirty work. They do a great job, week in and week out. For Marshal (Yanda) to come back and play when we thought he was going to miss two weeks showed toughness. It really makes you look at those guys in a whole different light and say, 'Wow'."
Is having a home playoff game special for you?: "Not yet. We need to go out there and win the game. Just because we are at home doesn't mean that anyone is giving the game to us. We need to go out there and play hard. We need to win a couple more games this year."
Did Ray Rice's touchdown runs (70 and 51 yards) surprise you today?: "He did a good job today when he got into the open field to not allow the defense to catch up to him. Obviously, getting into the end zone on both of those was huge."
Talk about the importance of the running game when you play in conditions like this afternoon: "It was really windy out there. It didn't prove to be that bad out there during the game. In pre-game warm-ups it was pretty windy. During the game, it didn't have too much affect on the football. There was definitely some weather out there. For us to come up with those two runs was big."
What does it mean to win a division that has three playoff teams?: "It's definitely big. We didn't just win the division, we beat everyone. It says that we will probably see one of those teams down the road and we'll have to get after them again."
What does it mean to you that you have won 44 games in your first four years, most in NFL history for a four-year quarterback?: "It's pretty special for us to be able to come out here the last four years the way that we have week in and week out to win games. Hopefully, I can add three more playoff wins on top of what we have the last few years. If we play well, we have the team to do it."
In the third and fourth quarters, talk about the wind conditions and if that impacted the play calling: "There was a heavy wind out there and you could tell. We had to weather the storm a little bit in the third quarter and we did a good job coming back in the fourth. They were able to gain some yards, but for our defense to come up with the fumble (in the fourth quarter) and us to go down and score was big."
Walk us through the touchdown to Pitta: "He did a great job running up on the guy and breaking out. The cornerback hugged up on Torrey (Smith) and I wanted to make sure he had no shot at getting it, so I laid it out in to the corner. He did a good job of getting the ball and getting his feet inbounds."
OLB TERRELL SUGGS
How does it feel to be division champions?: "It feels good. Everyone's kind of happy, taking it in. You know what I mean? You wouldn't have thought we won 12 games with the way you've been treating us and bashing us. Twelve wins is 12 wins. If you go undefeated at home, you go undefeated at home. We swept the division and are division champs, with a first-round bye. I'm just going to take it in and celebrate it with my brothers. We did it together."
Can you take us through the forced fumble?: "We like to get turnovers as a defense. The coaches are always forcing that issue, that we have to get turnovers. On the play before, the guy got outside and it was my fault. Ray (Lewis) said you owe me one, pretty much. I said all right, and when he caught the ball, I knew he missed it and said just go for the strip, went for it and got it."
What can you say about after the fumble, Ray Rice scoring a touchdown?: "You know, I've always been a big Ray Rice and offensive line fan. I strongly believe in our running game, and I strongly believe in our offensive line being in the trenches with us — you know what I mean? When they're good, we're great. When our offensive line dominates and Ray is running behind them, a lot of good things happen as you can all clearly see throughout the course of our season. When our offensive line is playing great and Ray's running the ball, we're winning games. That's all that matters."
You finally have a home playoff game. How big is that?: "It's valuable, man. I'm looking forward to the rest and sitting at home and watching the first week of playoffs with my babies. You know, that is the biggest thing. To be division North champs, that's your goal. To go undefeated at home, win the division and then have home field advantage — I don't think we got it — but we got a home playoff game and our fans, they deserve it. Our fans, they support us and they stick by us, even when we do uncharacteristic stuff and when we don't play Baltimore football. Our true fans stayed with us."
Prior to the forced fumble and sack, did you feel pressed to make a play?: "I thought I was going to pick a couple, actually. He (Andy Dalton) threw three that were right over my head or outside of my hands. I thought I was going to get a pick, actually. That's what I was going for. But I'll take the forced fumble and the sack. It all goes into the stats. We all love stats on this defense, particularly me."
In the locker room they chanted MVP to you. What does that mean?: "It's flattering when your team thinks that. You know, whatever happens, happens. It would be a nice accomplishment to be alongside Ray Lewis and Eddie (Reed).
RB RAY RICE
On your touchdown runs, talk about what you saw and the blocking that you got: "First and foremost, I'm going to give credit to my offensive line and Vonta Leach. You know it takes eleven for a run play to go. The first one I had, Marshal Yanda shouldn't even be playing. It was huge. The run game is different when he's not in there. For him to say, 'You know what, I'm going to tough this one out because I know what's at stake,' that shows what kind of guys we have on our team.
"But the first one, I just had to stay on my track. Vonta got on a guy, and then I was off to the races. The second one, the same thing. I can't tell you how happy I am for Joe Flacco and the game that he played, managing the game and not forcing anything down the field. That check-down to Vonta was just as big as me scoring the touchdowns. It got us in third-and-short situations. We've been playing a lot of situational football this year, and a lot of it hasn't gone our way. Today it went our way. It just feels good to know that we have a home game for the playoffs. It was a total team effort. Running backs, we get the glory. Man, that bill is going to be expensive for what I have to get my offensive line. I have to get those guys something nice. They've set it up nice for me this year."
What was it like being in the locker room after how much you guys talked about the importance of getting that home field and maybe getting a first-round bye?: "To end the regular season this way is very humbling because of the things you go through the course of a season — the highs, the lows, the ups and downs. To be able win the division on the road to secure a home playoff game, the feeling in that locker room was like no other. We have a great coaching staff and great organization. When we win, everybody wins. I can only imagine what the city of Baltimore is doing right now. It's amazing. I've been in a playoff game, but never had a home one. First one me, Joe (Flacco), coach Harbaugh. We all came in together. Winning the game was huge, but this week is going to be huge. The bye week gets people healthy. We came into this game a little banged up. But when you get that bye week, we're going to come back full strength."
Was there any point during the week where you weren't expecting Yanda to play?: "You see him after the game and you see him on Monday, you're like, 'We might as well prepare without Yanda.' But then you get out there Friday, and you know he's in pain but doesn't complain, and he's good to go. That's the kind of guy he is. There is a reason why got paid the money he did. I'm not saying it's about the money, but it's well-deserved. He's a Baltimore Raven."
S ED REED
Did Ray (Lewis) getting hurt and missing games earlier this season affect the leadership dynamics of this defense?: "We knew we all had to step up and we did. Ray was still right there. The leadership is here. We have so many guys (defense and offense) that are leaders. That's the thing about it. When Ray went down, everybody stepped up. Everybody understood that our leader was down and it was time to step up."
How does it feel to know you have an offense that can respond with big plays immediately after the defense forces turnovers?: "That (51-yard Ray Rice dash) touchdown was huge. It made it a two-score game. It took pressure off of the defense and allowed us to make plays. It makes you want to make another play, but sound ball."
TE DENNIS PITTA
How does it feel to wear that AFC North Division Champion t-shirt?: "I'm going to wear this one home. It feels great. We've worked so hard this year. This was our goal, to be division champs."
Last week, folks thought you were primed for a big game. This week, you set career highs with six catches for 62 yards. What was the difference this week?: "Last week, we were able to establish the run and we pounded it on (the Browns). A lot of times, it's about what the defense gives us. This week was a little different with the situations we were able to take advantage of."
Talk about the nine-yard touchdown pass you caught in the corner of the end zone before the half: "It was a corner route. The cornerback bit on Torrey (Smith) as he came across the middle. Joe threw a perfect ball to the corner and we were able to complete that one."